Monthly Archives: January 2013
For the past several years, I have been fortunate enough to get a little R and R at the beach in the fall. It is my favorite place to let my hair down, kick back and reflect, and I always come away refreshed and revived for the upcoming year. A huge stack of books used to accompany me, but since receiving a gift of a Kindle, I am able to take thousands of books I have loaded onto the device with me and drop it into my beach bag along with the sunscreen and towel. Ah, the miracles of technology!
After Labor Day last year, the time had come to pack it all up and head for the coast. I was so excited! I love everything about the beach and the lure and love was always a constant. I have been fortunate enough to go each fall for the last several years, in fact to the same Gulf Shores condo and always knew what to expect. There would come a certain place in the road down south where I would begin to see the palm trees waving hello to me. I would pass the boiled peanut vendor, then a favorite little stop for gas and refreshment. I had so many things that I had come to depend upon. I knew how the brisk tang of the salt air would fill my nostrils one I got to a certain point in the highway. I knew where all the great thrift stores were….I could already feel the shifting sand under my feet as I made my way to the blinding white shore for the first time after arrival. I knew when the warm sun would finally be over the outdoor pool long enough to take the first dip of the day without freezing. I even often saw the same people from year to year that vacationed during my same 10 days and we were able to have a “family reunion” of sorts. It was all exactly as it was the year before and I loved it.
A couple of days after arriving at the coast I received a call from my son-in-law. He was cutting my yard for me while I was gone and when he had gone around back to mow, he noticed a large rotting tree that had fallen on the back fence during the storm the night before. After a call and visit to the neighbors, he assured them that the tree and fence would be fixed upon my return to town. But it is now January, and through a series of false starts and setbacks with insurance and contractors, the fence is still down and hasn’t been repaired.
My home is situated at the back of a nice neighborhood. My back yard overlooks the east side of a home on 4 acres. Over the course of the last 18 years I have lived here, I have seen several changes in both owners and lay of the land. The original owners had a small T-ball field built in the middle of their meadow and on Saturdays I could sit high on my deck and watch the little ones tumble and play. It was an every day occurrence to see all manner of wildlife in the field on any misty morning. Opossums, deer, and the occasional bobcat were all matter of course. We even caught sight of a small panther once! When I first moved into my home, there was a barbed wire fence stretched across the back and the view was uninhibited. The land beyond the home behind me had a pond and that family raised peacocks and peahens. It was not unusual for the occasional rebel to meander across both patches of land, come through the barbed wire and blast us a wake up scream at all hours of the day.
But over the years, owners and situations changed, outbuildings were built by one home owner along with a wooden fence, and I could no longer view the entire meadow behind me anymore. It was kind of melancholy, but the fence afforded some privacy to both myself and the neighbors, so it was deemed appropriate at the time.
But, I noticed something as the years went by…
As time went on, I noticed less and less wildlife walking through the meadow, and the squirrels, birds, and deer seemed to be more scarce since the building of the fence. I had thought it was due to the fact that the woods behind me were getting cleared out and some building had taken place there several years back and so the wildlife had probably migrated to another area that was less populated. I never gave it much thought till this last week. Several times I had walked to the window, or out onto the deck and see a different kind of bird that were on my feeders, or the squirrels eating the corn I had put out for them on the spinning tree feeder. I always try to keep those full, but when I am gone a lot, as I am, I don’t always see the actual animals, just the evidence that they were there from time to time.
Last week, other than a bit of computer work and eating soup, I pretty much was in bed sick. I am rarely sick, almost never, so this is not a place that is comfortable for me. I like being busy, and many of my days see me going out for first one thing then another for both my businesses, working on the computer in my home office at the front of the house, filing, etc. Whatever this crud was, it pretty much grounded me all week and I slept away most of the first part of the week, and ventured out onto the deck for fresh air only after four days. On Thursday, I was thinking back to two weeks before when I was standing by the kitchen window after opening the blinds and caught sight of a deer in the middle of the meadow behind me. I was so surprised…it had been well over a year since I had seen one, and I stood and watched it till it was gone from view. What had been common many years ago had become a rare sighting over time, so any moment I was lucky enough to catch one I just stopped everything and watched it as it walked around, ate, and finally moved into the woods again.
Suddenly during my daydreaming, I caught some movement by my fence at the corner and saw a tiny fawn step out and begin to walk timidly along the fence line…or what should have been the fence line…at the back of my yard. It walked all along, stopping to eat, to lift its ears and listen, then walk some more, always keeping to the same path. After a few minutes, it disappeared back into the woods, and I threw on a jacket and went to the back of the lot to see if I could see it again. Peering over the fallen fence, I never did catch another glimpse. But I did see something…I saw a well worn path in the grass and places where the green was worn down to the dirt. It went all along the old fence line, then off into the woods…
I wondered how many times the deer had been there all along, walking the fence line and I couldn’t see it because the fence was in the way? Did I see something just now that had been there all along only because I was home…and aware…and the fence was no longer blocking my view? How much beauty and quietness of nature had I missed over the years thinking it was no longer available to me?
So many parallels to my own professional and personal life are found in the story of my deer. I am at a crossroads in my life path and in the center of decisions that will affect the last part of my life. I want the decisions to be good and wholesome, something that will care for me but also allow me to care for others in ways that mean something.
Should I sell my cleaning business and start another vocation? Should I seek out a position in another company and help someone along their own professional path rather than be “the man” anymore? Do I go into estate and resales full time, re-purposing furniture and spending my days with paint under my fingernails creating treasures for others? Or do I sell my home where I know all my neighbors and all the idiosyncracies of the wood and stone, opting to occupy a home with my kids and grandbabies and just be GiGi to them the rest of my natural life? Are there things I have built into my own life over the years that started out as a good fence, but became a block to my own great future? Can I no longer see the deer?
Fences can be good things. They protect, they set boundaries, they guard, they embrace. But I am of the belief every fence should have at least one peephole in it. Otherwise you may miss those golden little opportunities for change and happiness as they stroll by….and wouldn’t it be sad if they had been there all along, just waiting for your fence to come down?
Today marks the first blog post of 2013. The year 2012 was filled with grandbabies’ births, highs and lows in my personal life and circumstances, and shifting trends in my company and… well…frankly, I am over-ready to start a brand new year. With all the rush of the holidays over and fuss and muss all but packed away and put in the attic, it is time to start thinking about what I want to accomplish and BE in the upcoming months. Opportunity to begin again happens to all of us, if we let it. But many times we cha-cha with the same old issues, the same old unrealistic dreams, and the same old people and problems going into a new year as we did in the old one. Many times the “same old” phrase refers more to ourselves and our view of life than to someone else…
It was last Friday, techs were out on their jobs for the day, and my operations manager called and had an issue arise at the office. No one likes to be terminated from a position, and even more so, no one likes to be the one terminating another person, especially at holiday time and with our country on the brink of a financial disaster dubbed “the fiscal cliff”. Months of inadequacy and complacency on an employee’s part had forced the company’s hand and a staff member was going to be terminated that day. Tension is always at a high level, but for the most part the person leaving employ is reasonable and sees the handwriting on the wall before the time comes for the “talk”, but this employee was unusual. She denied throughout all performance reviews that any issues were legitimate when she received complaints from our customers or during a quality check from the managers. She gave excuses for her behavior, she didn’t ask for help getting back to company standards, but instead tried to make those around her believe that THEY were wrong in their standards and assessment of her work. She faulted her training, she faulted her teammates, she faulted the stringency of the company procedures, she faulted everyone and anyone but herself. She was charming and would have been convincing in her quiet, disarming way if I had not had experience with others in my own life like this employee. Many are the times I have encountered a “dedicated convincer”. They have an issue or issues that are usually long term…so long term they have become a part of their personality to the point they no longer see them as issues. They have a way of soft-speaking about sad situations, relationships or moments that arose out of giving into their own issues. It makes you feel sorry for them at onset of your relationship with them, they convince you their issues are due to some (usually imagined or exaggerated) past injustice or ill treatment by another in their life prior to you finding them, and you are encouraged to become their “savior”. Invariably you do find yourself becoming harsh or too judgmental in your assessment of a situation and their participation in it if the issues come to light or start to affect you and your own life and good choices. Then you find you are “convinced” you are the bad guy or the problem is really not theirs, but yours. You begin to second guess yourself in your decisions and ultimately in the conversations or interaction with this person or group of people. You become your own bad guy as you take up the mantle of victim and someone’s perception becomes your own reality.
Friday was the job position crossroads with the employee and she had not liked the conversation she had had with the manager about her work and the terms of her termination. The employee had also chosen to bring her boyfriend with her to the meeting in an effort to have someone as her support person. The boyfriend was not allowed into the meeting which miffed him. He then found out when the employee refused to sign termination papers she would not receive a check that day, and he boldly stepped in as her support back up. After much yelling and making a spectacle outside the office window, finally the manager called me, and I headed to the office myself instructing her to call the police to meet me there to take care of and diffuse the situation.
On the 4 minute drive from my home to the office I was fuming. I had been working from home and was neck high in paperwork and so forth and this was taking me away from my own schedule. It also was wasting salaried time my manager should have been using for her own job, and instead everyone’s day was being eaten up by the ridiculous. Both the manager and I knew what the situation was and it was an exercise in futility for the employee to try and convince us that we were wrong, and even more a kangaroo court to think someone not involved with the company could shed any light on our ignorance. Her foolish choice of a support person cost her having to deal with police officers, she still had to comply with company policy to receive her paycheck, and it created unneeded stress and tension in her relationship with the boyfriend.
When I relayed a bit of the story on my Facebook page later, I told how the police came, we were calm and explained what went on, we didn’t challenge the accusers before, during or after the police were there and we got all our paperwork signed and the employee exited as we needed without incident. One of my cousins commented on how often the police encounter erratic and irrational behavior not only out of the employee in this type situation, but that the employer becomes emboldened with the police’s arrival and gets into the fray verbally and just makes the whole thing a bigger mess than it ever needed to be, rather than giving what my cousin called “wise support”.
I have thought of this term so many times since last Friday, and I have come to some pretty interesting and a bit painful conclusions about myself, my own life path to this point and the object of my “blame game” I play in my own relationships, whether at work, play or with my own family and friends. Do I blame the twists and turns of my own road in life, and the choices and consequences that perhaps I am still recovering from today, on those who did me some perceived great injustice? But…I have to be the way I am, or think the way I do, don’t I? They caused it, they trained me this way, they tried to change me, gave up on me, were hard on me, expected too much from me, abused me, abandoned me…the list goes on…you get it, right? Had I become my own “dedicated convincer”?
There is an old saying “They say is often proved a great liar”. Why is that so easy to state, but so hard to live when we have voices in our past whispering “You are not good enough”…”You will never live up to”….”You can’t quit, you are weak”…”You can’t start a new life, the old life is too strong”…”You are stupid”…”You are fat”….”You won’t succeed”…”You will never amount to anything”. Is it because we choose to be an instrument of validation now for the harm or insensitivity we have suffered then?
I am not one to make resolutions, but this year I am breaking tradition and making one and only one resolution. I am crucifying the old voices of the past, and I am laying down my position of “dedicated convincer” in my own life. I am simply choosing from this day forward to tell myself the truth about me. I have choices…I may not have had some good options given to me in the past by another “dedicated convincer” in my life, and sometimes I made some poor decisions based on faulty or insufficient training, but they were still MY choices. And difficult as it is to utter, in every instance I made my own poorest choices with some measure of stupidity and rash judgment that I tethered to one belief…someone else was to blame for my foolishness, issues and inability to change my own life path. I followed the convincer, rather than choosing to make a break with soft-speaking voices of untruth about me. Even when there was truth and it was unlovely, I allowed it to grow and gain strength, become a part of my personality and many times morph into an issue or event that became my undoing for years after it should have been forgotten or stood against. Instead, I choose to archive 1960 through 2012 as “the past”, and I refuse to go back there other than to gather a lesson here and there. I also refuse to take anything into my life here forward except those ideals, people and things that will pave a good path for me. This part of my life…2013 forward… will be different than the former part of my life. This time I will not walk it alone….I choose to walk it in the truthful company of my own “wise support”.